Thursday, April 28, 2011

These days....

This is my Grandpa Pexa. He is 101 years old. After an amazing life filled with so much love and abundance, his body is getting tired. Very tired. Turns out that it takes a lot of work to be 101. Who knew?


It’s hard – so hard - to speak the truth, but Grandpa is dying. Not because of any particular health issue, but because he is old. Simple as that. The end may still be weeks or even months away. But we are now facing the very difficult truth that his time with us is limited. And, having had Grandpa as such a constant and vital part of our lives for – well, forever….now we’re all trying to figure out how to reorder our reality, knowing he may be leaving us soon.….

It is almost impossible to consider. Unimaginable, really.

The picture above was taken only two days ago. I don’t think most people would guess his age. And you certainly wouldn’t guess having witnessed the active life he’s led, up until a few short weeks ago.

At the end of March, Grandpa was dancing with my Anna on her birthday. I only hope she holds on to that memory forever. Dancing with Great Grandpa on her fourth birthday. (And if she is too young to remember, I will - - I promise, I will remember….)

In some ways, Grandpa has been ageless.

At any give time, we all knew how old he was. We’ve celebrated his birthday with a big family gathering every year for as long as I can remember. Big chunky candles on the cake, announcing the year - 94...95...96....And we really did it up when Grandpa turned 100.

We all knew the “number,” but it never matched his lifestyle. Grandpa has always lived such a full life. We joked that his social calendar was busier than most of ours. We joked – but it was true too. Despite his increasing age, none of us really thought in terms of it signifying an end to his life. But obviously, we don’t get a choice in the matter....

So now, we’re circling the wagons. My family made the beautiful decision that Grandpa would live the last of his days in his own home. For 99 years, he lived on the same farmstead in Helena Township. And now for the last two years, he has happily settled into a lovely apartment in town. We will honor Grandpa by keeping him surrounded by familiar sights and sounds and smells. And surrounded - day and night - by people he loves (and who love him beyond words).

We’re all lining up for our chance to stay with Grandpa. And spots on the calendar are a hot commodity. Everyone wants their turn for an afternoon or a sleepover. Our family will have a sleepover next Thursday night. And until then, we’ll be frequent visitors. Holding hands, sharing a laugh and a memory. Whispering “I love you’s” and staring into gentle eyes. Or just sitting together. And knowing we don’t need to say anything at all.

And as much as we may give Grandpa during his last days, he’ll give it back to us tenfold. Funny how some things never change.

These days are a precious gift.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring break....

With Henry having just a few days off for spring break this year, we planned a little local getaway to Minneapolis. And despite the rain, we had a ball.

It's actually been awhile since we've taken an overnight trip anywhere. We've gone camping and to a cabin a few times recently, but we haven't stayed at a hotel. On Thursday as we were getting ready, we realized that Anna had no recollection of what a hotel even was. She started walking walked around the house, room by room, mumbling about how she would miss everything when we were gone. She was so sad and so sincere...

But she certainly changed her tune when we arrived. We stayed at the Hyatt downtown, right on Nicollet Mall. The kids were so excited, checking out the little shampoos and toothpastes, seeing if anyone left anything behind in the dresser drawers (thankfully, no!) and JUMPING ON THE BED!!  Beside a great room, the view was fabulous.


Despite being 23 floors up, this was Anna's favorite spot.  (It gave me the willies....)


The view was even better when the sun went down.


Besides all of the fun things we did downtown, I think the kids enjoyed hanging out at the hotel the most.  Swimming, riding the elevator, and piling on the bed to watch movies and eat treats.

I distinctly remember staying at a hotel now and again with my family when I was little.  For no other reason than to take a little "vacation."  And among my favorite memories....eating Oreos and drinking 7-Up in bed.  (guess what we had for treats....)  It's the little things....


Big news during our weekend.  We bought Henry new tie shoes and he learned how to tie them!  Double knots even.  Second grade, here he comes.... 


Anna chose new shoes too.  The princess sandals on the right.  I tried to steer her towards a nice pair of sneakers, but no luck.  It was hard for my cute little Chuck Taylors to compete with light-up Cinderella.  (yes, the sandals even light up!)

Here, Anna was trying out two looks for her outfit on Friday.  You'll never guess which pair won out....


I love the lazy mornings we had.  No where to rush too.  Time to really relax and just be together for a change.  It was lovely. 


And when the kids would suggest something to do, I relished in being able to say "Sure, we can do whatever we want."  And we did.  We went to a movie downtown, and had ice cream, visited the Central library, went to the Science Museum.  Swimming, eating, and lots of walking.  We even rode to the top of the IDS Center, the tallest building in Minnesota.  As expected, Anna loved the view.  The rest of us - not so much.

Even though I work downtown and see the sites all the time, it was so much fun to see everything through the kid's eyes.  They noticed every sculpture and piece of art. They asked about every building.  Crosswalks were cause for an adventure. Escalators were like a carnival ride.

As I promised myself, we did try for our April family picture.  And it was a miserable failure.  (no detail necessary.  Just imagine uncooperative kids that turned into uncooperative everyone).  Next time....

I did get a few good shots of the the kids together though....


These were waiting for the elevator at the Science Museum.  I loved the tile walls!





Saturday we were back home again, getting ready for Easter.



This was Henry's favorite egg.  Mine too....



Over the weekend, Anna discovered she LOVES hard boiled eggs.  With Henry's past egg allergy, I really never offered them much.  But this weekend, Anna couldn't get enough.  Fine by me!


On Sunday, Grandma & Grandpa hosted brunch and their annual Easter egg hunt.  And at last, we had a beautiful day.








It really was a lovely weekend. I'm so in love with my family. Sometimes it is good to take a step back from all the craziness of daily life and really remember that.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blue skies....

Despite the dreary weather lately, we all know it can't last forever. The signs are everywhere....

These chives were snow-covered just a few days ago -


My peony is budding. It is my absolute favorite of all the flowers I have planted in my garden. Mostly because of the memories it holds for me. I remember the peonies from the first house we lived in when I was growing up, and at my grandma's house. To me, these buds are the definition of spring! And they mean "home" to me.


Happy kids outside, even if it is still a little chilly....






That's a nest in the top of the tree.


Yes, call me a hopeless optimist (it is my curse...), but I know we're destined for blue skies!


My family is headed out for a mini-spring break trip. The kids can hardly wait! I just need to get through the packing. Then I'll be ready to enjoy the fun too!

Happy spring!

Monday, April 18, 2011


This "everyday gratitude" deserved a picture....

Today Anna told me that I could call her Anna or I could call her Princess or I could call her Princess Anna. It was my choice.

Why thank you, Anna....

I am SO grateful for all the choices that my beautiful life affords me!


Saturday, April 16, 2011


Earlier this week, I promised my brother-in-law from Oregon that he wouldn't need to worry about snow when he came with his family to visit us in June. Of course, I was just kidding, but after today....

I may need to recant.





Anna wants to go outside and make a snowman. For some reason, I'm less than enthused. Maybe we'll have another beach party!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Making lemonade....

It's the middle of April in Minnesota, and as I type, I can hear the snow hitting the window behind me.

I know, I know. It won't last. But still. This just isn't necessary. Especially after a particularly cold and snowy winter. So I (along with every other Minnesotan over the age of 12) sulked a little today. But my not kids....

Henry and Anna took one look out the window and knew exactly what to do - -


Beach party!

We cranked up the tunes and the heat, and they wiggled into their swimsuits and goggles. Henry even threw a little water on his face for effect. And then we danced.




Anna even channeled the Hawaiian surf and did "a little hula dance," as she called it.



Just goes to show. When life (or the weather) gives you lemons....


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My dear boy....

How does this happen???


I know, I know....Every mom says it. But it's true. Time evaporates. Gone. You go from having a baby who keeps you up all night, to having a first grader working on division problems and saving his money for video games.

And, even though I never believe it when someone else says it - - I have to admit that I agree. The "now" is always the most amazing time of all. Sure, I miss those days. All the firsts....smiles, stumbling steps, meeting a baby sister, pre-school, on and on....

But nothing - nothing - can beat what I see right in front of me. At this moment. Maybe because the connection between us just keeps getting stronger.

Who knew that was even possible.

So, I'll be down-on-my-knees grateful for every day of these last seven years with my dear boy, and for all the beauty and wonder they have brought. But I won't long for the past....

Because right now is so very sweet.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturday morning outing...

You'll never guess where I was yesterday....


The Como Zoo in St. Paul!

I had the honor of meeting this fabulous family and taking a few photos. 

This is Neve.  She is two and a half.  She brought her mom and dad with her to the zoo.  Neve's mom Huong is sister to my dear friend Uyen.  Huong and I have heard much about each other for years, so it was about time we met! 


It was a lovely morning.  And really, what could be better than a day at zoo on the first nice weekend of spring?

Well maybe COTTON CANDY at the zoo on the first nice weekend of spring....!



We started our outing in the Conservatory, checking out the flowers and the fish pond.  I think Neve was a little skeptical at first.  Who was this stranger following her around with a camera??  But she warmed up quickly.



Neve's favorite game of the morning was "swing me."  And really, what 2 year old doesn't love that game....

Of course, Mom and dad were more than happy to oblige.   



This game produced some of the biggest smiles of the morning.


The thing I love about an informal "as-is" photo session is seeing the real interactions going on between family members.  The connections.  The honest smiles and hugs and glances.  And I feel so privileged to see it all unfold.

Clearly, my favorite part about this session was simply watching Neve with her mom and dad. 



There is just something that I love about this shot....




Robert, Huong and Neve - I can't thank you enough for allowing me to tag along at the zoo.  It was so wonderful to meet you.  I'll have much more to share soon....